Mother’s Milk

This video features old film footage from Cheryl Hunter’s childhood set to a prose poem she wrote about her life and what it means.

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Ten Ways To Make A Marriage Work

So you’ve decided to take that plunge into everlasting bliss with your soul mate?  Well if you want to make it past the first year or the first kid then play your cards right.mike&me

I am ten years into my third marriage.  Maybe that qualifies me to advise others, maybe not.  But this third time is definitely the proverbial charm.  What I learned over the past thirty-three years since my first marriage is simple.  The getting along thing begins with me and my choices.  Choice one is marrying the right person in the first place.  Choice two is being mature enough to be honest with myself and the other person.  Choice three is marrying FOR the right reasons.  Once you’ve made these choices correctly, the rest is a matter of the following ten suggestions.

1.  Admit (at least to yourself) when you are wrong.

There’s nothing worse than to carry on with an argument or ruin your entire day because you refuse to be wrong.  That’s really just plain stupid.  Always look at your own part in the situation…and if you’re not wrong at least attempt to understand why your spouse thinks you are.

2.  Know that certain events in life will affect you differently.

Births, deaths, money issues, etc. affect women differently than they do men.  Men tend to look for comfort during trying times and need more sexually charged physical contact, while women want to be comforted and cuddled and have no interest in sex.  Becoming a mom is usually the beginning of this scenario.  It is natural for a mom to become absorbed in the child and its needs versus the husband’s.  A new dad will score much more often in bed if he recognizes this and talks openly about it, giving mom some time to just be appreciated.  But the new mom needs to remember that hubby is feeling a bit neglected and do what she can to make him feel important in this new baby thing (and that doesn’t mean just changing diapers!).

3.  Be respectful of each other’s pet peeves (even if they are ridiculous).

The toilet seat can quickly become the object of tension in a household.  The best way to solve the problem is to make a rule that EVERYONE should close the toilet lid.  This means that even the women in the house must open and close to use it, and finally the men will feel equal in the bathroom.  Other suggestions are clean up your own stuff (sounds simple and silly, but think about it).  Do you leave your socks all over the house?  Do you leave your shoes all over the bedroom floor?  Do you use all but the last little sheet of toilet paper so you don’t have to change the roll?  Do you only wash the clothes you need because you “don’t want to mess up anyone else’s” or only dry the shirt you need and leave the rest in the washer?  Oh the tension and fights we can avoid if we only take one minute more!

4.  Marriage means everything is shared…even money (yes it’s true!).

Does your spouse work the same hours each week but get paid less?  Does that make you feel like you earn more and therefore should have a say in how money is spent?  Does your spouse stay home with the children and that means you budget an “allowance” for that spouse?  Do you spend what you want without letting your spouse know but want a discussion first for anything else purchased?  Perhaps instead of an allowance it should be referred to as a paycheck for domestic duties.  Remember that each spouse contributes to a marriage in his/her own way, and each should be respected for that contribution.   If you are a stay at home spouse your contribution should include a clean environment for the family.  If you are the working spouse your contribution is not only financial but also showing a mutual appreciation for the person that makes your house a home.  Seems so simple…doesn’t it?

5.  Having a social life is important and necessary.

Just because two become one is no reason they cannot have friends.  It also does not mean that they cannot have separate activities.  Individuality is important in our lives.  We need to be free to express ourselves in order to feel human.  Of course, there are those activities that may cause friction.  If you are going out to a bar with your friends after work every day while your spouse is home alone then you are not getting the point.  If you and your friends take off every other weekend to hit the casinos without your spouse something may be off a bit.  Healthy activities and the occasional “out with the guys or girls” is perfectly fine, but when your activities become an escape from your family instead of a fun outlet you may have a problem.

6.  Resentment and hanging on to past battles or hurt is a true marriage wrecker.

If you bring up old stuff or wallow in the pain of the past you are really only destroying yourself.  All that ugliness will eat you up and keep you from enjoying the things about your spouse that you fell in love with in the first place.  Do you know how to forgive?  Are you free from any mistakes or screw-ups?  Can you look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you’ve done nothing hurtful or have never betrayed the trust of another?  Unless you can look in the mirror and see perfection then holding on to past stuff is hypocritical.

7.  Someone’s got to be the grown up.

Yea, it’s true that your spouse lets one fly and blames it on you but at least you know who the mature one is between you.  Then again, isn’t it nice that your spouse is still playful?  One of you needs to loosen up and the other really should try to set a good example for the kids.  But a balance of grown up and child like behavior provides for a healthy environment for children.  Besides, when your spouse blames you for the obnoxious sound and smell you can smile proudly and say “I learned it all from you.”

8.  So you had a hard day…maybe everyone did.

When you come home from work and your spouse or kids want a bit of your time do you brush them off and say you’re tired and want some time alone?  Do you get annoyed when your spouse tells you what a rough day at home it was because the kids were fighting all day?  Does your spouse come home wanting time with you, but all you want to do is talk about the things around the house that need to be fixed?  Can’t we all just get along?  Everyone has rough days and everyone needs to feel like they have a shoulder to cry on.  However the opposite is also true in that everyone needs some kick back time after a long day.  When we respect both of those very real needs and allow some settling down time, then our together time can be much more pleasant.  Kids however, are another story.  Give them five minutes to say anything they need to say and then they will happily move on once it’s out of their system.

9.  Dreading social obligations can fester into a blowout.

Your spouse does not like your mother because she is a know-it-all and thrives on making you look bad.  Your sister-in-law brags about her great job and how perfect her children are then cuts you off every time you want to talk about your own.  These are every day issues that each couple has to deal with.  Yet, family is important so you must be the bigger person.  Your spouse may complain and put down his or her own family members but you should never cross that line.  Be sympathetic but do not agree…it may be held against you later.  Just go to the holiday dinner with a smile on your face and imagine them all in clown makeup making complete asses out of themselves.

10.  Don’t go to bed mad, just go to bed.

We’ve all heard this one, but it is easier said than done.  If you broaden its meaning we should not leave our spouse with anger at anytime.  Whether to go to sleep or to go to the store we never know when it may be our last time together.  Life is full of surprises and the more we forgive and forget the more joy we allow into this life.  Be willing to make the first move toward peace.  “I’m sorry” is not always the right thing to say.  Something like, “I never realized I was acting that way let me know next time if I am starting to do that again.”  Or maybe, “I know you didn’t do that on purpose, I was just angry about it and took it out on you.”  These little words can make all the difference.  If all else fails do something stupid and silly…laughter can sometimes break anyone’s anger.

In the fast-paced, ever changing and demanding world we live, do we really want to do it all alone?  Having a best friend to spend your time here with seems like a good idea to me.  Forgiveness, respect, loyalty and support are really what love is all about.

Too Busy Being You To Be Me

Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in how to fix the world around us and lose sight of the one place that all the fixes must start…the person in the mirror. I have spent years trying to solve everyone’s problems, fix people, change situations or structures to fit my image of what it should be. I became masterful at manipulating people in my life to mold them into what fit me. Somehow it always ended up a disaster in the end, with hurt, ruin and wreckage that took years to clean up.

The instant I realized that by keeping my mind focused on fixing others I wasn’t looking at myself, something shifted. I was not happy with the face in the mirror, I didn’t know how to fix it, but from the outside I believed I had the answers for everyone else. I ran from my sadness, my fears, my guilt, my resentment because I could not find the answers for my own disposition. There was nothing or no one to blame, only myself to hold responsible, and if I couldn’t fix me I would just ignore me. I could not control things that I felt, remembered, or regretted, so why try?

This lack of control over myself manifested a belief that if I helped fix others it would somehow frost over my own issues. In the end, I spent so much energy on everyone but me it built up resentments in those who never asked for my interference, and in me for what I perceived as their lack of appreciation. Talk about an EGO problem! This also manifested as envy due to the perception that others have what I want, or that I am better at this or that than they are.

My philosophical and spiritual quest, including lessons learned through education about codependency, led me to discover some of the false perceptions that I allowed to take over. Once I understood how to put my spiritual self in the driver seat and delegate the EGO to its rightful place, things began to become more clear. I was swimming in a pool of lack while looking for a glass of abundance.

Now that I am aware of this, I have made a conscious effort to turn that energy toward myself. When I begin to have those feelings of self loathing I try to call up all the good things I’ve personally accomplished and I think about someone else’s success. By thinking about that other person’s success and really focusing on my heart felt joy for them, it removes the need for me to experience their success. Envy stems from self deprecation, from feeling we are not at the same level as another…this is all a belief in lack versus abundance.

As I continue to work through this, I constantly remind myself that we are all part of a balanced system that requires every minute component of life, no matter how long in existence, no matter how great or small, each of us plays an important role in the unfolding of life itself. I am significant, you are significant, every form of life is significant. Just as we are. Right here, right now. So stay busy being you, and I will stay busy being me. Together we will be all we were meant to be.

The New Man

Claire with Pappy Mike
Claire with “Pappy” Mike

Watching my husband and my sons-in-law at my home on Thanksgiving day, I realize that the move toward a better balance has already begun in some men.

Past generations have relied on traditional behavior for men as dictated by society and culture. The protector, the provider, the rule maker and the disciplinarian have been roles usually played by Dad.

Children were considered to be not much more than a helpless creature needing mom’s exclusive care until about age three when they were walking and talking.

Pappy Mike and Roman
“Pappy” Mike with Roman

While both of my daughters are doting, stay-at-home breastfeeding mothers, their husbands have easily found their way into baby’s daily routine. With Claire at six months and Roman at two months old, the dads share everything from feeding to changing diapers and rocking the kids to sleep.

My husband, better known as “Pappy Mike,” lights up when the little ones are around. He loves the updates in pictures and stories that we receive, and takes pride in being able to get a laugh or a smile out of the little faces.

This participation by men who are in every way still the provider and protector is refreshing because they have so easily also taken on the title of nurturer. A team effort witnessed on this micro level gives me hope for the world out there.

Turkey or Tofu?

The recent request by PETA that the President use the term “spare” rather than “pardon” caused a bit of turmoil inside myself this morning.  Their premise is that a pardon indicates guilt, and the turkey is not guilty of anything thus has no need of a pardon by anyone.  Of course, the ultimate outcome for PETA would be that the tradition of  our nation’s leader stop with the turkey pardoning all together.

Turkey pardoning by U.S. Presidents began 1863 when Abraham Lincoln allowed his son Tad to keep a turkey as a pet until its day to be placed on the dinner table.  Tad could not bear to see his pet killed and Lincoln, so the story goes, spared the turkey.

The actual tradition as we know it today was started by President Ronald Reagan with his line, “This fine Tom Turkey has been granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”  It has been so ever since.

The notion of an innocent animal needing to be pardoned is one thing, the spectacle of that innocent animal receiving a thumbs up from our nation’s leader reminds me of the old world practice of men being forced into conflict in a coliseum where the emperor signals a thumbs up or down to determine the fate of each man.  Perhaps it is time to move away from this tradition.

I have found myself looking at the issue of killing animals for human consumption a little more closely these days.  I will not get into the debate about whether or not humans need meat to survive, but the consideration that we eat meat for the taste rather than the need is similar to why we eat sweets.  The smell and taste has become an addiction of sorts (at least in some countries), and one which has also become a money making industry.

It seems that wild turkeys are extremely intelligent and self sufficient shortly after hatching.  In a beautiful book by naturalist Joe Hutto, we are introduced to the world of the turkey as it matures and develops.  A fascinating look at a creature native to North America, “Illumination in the Flatwoods” has been made into a film by PBS and the BBC.

As Americans we have so many choices, so many opportunities, but as part of a global community we also have an obligation to be good stewards.  That includes making changes in our habits as a society as we learn more about our world and its inhabitants.  We must evolve in step with our scientific knowledge if we are to live in a cooperative manner.

Does this mean we have to give up eating Turkeys?  I will not engage in that dialogue at this time, but what it does mean is that we may want to consider a future that takes a lesson from the past and respects an animal’s right to be free, happy and healthy….even if part of that life includes providing sustenance to another through its demise.  The Indigenous people of North America understood this gentle balance.  They hunted when necessary, but only for sustenance.  Killing for a profit has nothing to do with providing food for a family.

So whether you are eating turkey or tofu this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to say a prayer of thanks to the animals that are not spared or pardoned, who provide us with sustenance.

Something Awesome This Way Comes

Can you feel it?  Many of us can.  Some are reacting with “The sky is falling!”  Others are reacting with “...I waited for this.”  Regardless of the emotions you may be feeling, there is no denying the transition.  The change in how we relate to each other is moving with a changing of the guard, an exponential increase in the amount of young people who “get it.”

A recent episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday featured three young people who have begun to lead their generation in a whole new way of social interaction through spiritual principles that are inclusive and that utilize “coopetition.”  I love that word, coopetition.  It is a new way to express a method for growing ourselves, our economy and our planet as a cooperative society that brings everyone along in all success to the highest good.  Win-win is a good thing.

Gabrielle Bernstein, Mastin Kipp and Marie Forleo bring a fresh perspective about how to pursue happiness, leave the world better than you found it and evolve to a higher level of being.  The word coopetition was discussed and explained in Oprah’s interview with these wonderful young teachers.  Each one shared suggestions in moving through this paradigm shift and how we may  leave the old way of competition in society behind, and embrace the new way of unity in purpose.

To work together for the common good is not a new concept certainly, but one that continues to try to break through the false labels that denigrate the philosophy from a compassionate bottom up symbiotic one to a destroyer of  business and competition  that wants to give people something for nothing.  In the United States for generations the labels “communism” and “socialism” have been thrown at any concept that speaks of unity and cooperation, not to mention good stewardship.  As these old-fashioned labels drop away, and a new generation untainted by the “commie scares” of the 1950’s begin to take their place in leadership, a new type of cooperative existence will take shape.

It is just the beginning of our global new age, and I am excited to be here right now.  Yes, something awesome this way comes…how will you decide to experience it?

A Kinder, Gentler Workplace

I don’t know about you, but for the past few years I have noticed an increasing schism between the old understanding of boss and worker relationship and the new.  As individuals begin to realize their own power as a cog in the great machine called capitalism, they are more apt to speak out or make changes.  Not only as a worker but also as a consumer.  In truth, an informed person is an empowered person and the spreading of the empowerment in the name of change can bring any organization to its knees.  Some companies see the value of happy, healthy and respected employees, others do not.  Those that do thrive because they get the highest productivity from those workers.  The companies that see a worker as disposable and a liability will reap poor productivity, theft and dishonesty from their workers.

According to human resource veteran David Russo, companies like Johnson & Johnson and Men’s Warehouse are great examples of successful organizations that understand the importance of their employees.  In an interview by Connie Blaszczyk of Monster.com, Russo says this:

    “…Johnson & Johnson and the Men’s Wearhouse are great examples. These companies offer their employees a work environment that allows them to do exceptional work while acknowledging the company’s dependence on them to succeed. These companies tell employees that they value them as persons, not just when they deliver the goods. But they’re also clear that they must deliver the goods in order to be recognized.

They show recognition and respect for their people via the behavior of their managers. There’s no pecking order — the leadership is all qualitative. It gives people an opportunity to have high respect for their leaders — gained by listening and taking risks. It’s about leadership that delivers as a resource, not as an overseer, and is willing to act as a coalescing agent to guide and encourage; and to create an environment for motivation.

Behaviors of employees are always somewhat self-centered. But when they want to deliver valuable contributions and help the company advance and compete, then everyone goes forward. AND this enlightened self-interest works for employee and employer alike.”

John Sununu once said, “I do not support raising the minimum wage, and the reason is as follows. When the minimum wage is raised, workers are priced out of the market. That is the economic reality that seems, at least so far, to be missing from this discussion.”

This attitude, seeing workers as a business cost versus an investment, is based on a medieval hierarchical philosophy that some are entitled and some are not.  Workers should be happy to be working.  If they must work more than one job in order to survive, then so be it.  The focus for the “boss” mentality is only the financial bottom line.  These types of business owners or managers do not recognize the value of goodwill in the community, which extends to employees and their families.  Have we learned nothing from the story by Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol?

Just when it seemed that we headed in a new direction where workers were honored for their contribution toward a company’s success, along comes a new desperate surge of animosity from the top-tier of the world’s corporations.  But just as the surge in the negative direction grows, so does the surge in companies moving forward with an attitude of gratitude for their employees.  This great divide only shows that the two models are at a natural point in evolution.  One fights for what was, one fights for what is to be.  The stronger will survive.  That is the great mantra of the free market system.

At this point is seems that those companies with an altruistic approach to its employees will most likely move ahead and squeeze out those who cling to the old ways.  Educating employees on peaceful resolution, problem solving and time management in regular training meetings results in a workforce that can deal with daily lateral level issues.  Recognizing employees for what they do right and finding ways to eliminate the potential for insecurity, envy and unhealthy competition results in an atmosphere of abundance rather than scarcity.

Thomas DeLong of the Harvard Business Review said, “Comparing is a trap that permeates our lives, especially if we are high-need-for-achievement professionals.”

Creating an environment that allows growth in a variety of ways, rewarding employees for achievement in everything from good ideas to finishing a project ahead of deadline, and then following through with a merit system moves a company in a good direction.  This is investing.  Even when a company has to be tight on payroll, employees who are made to feel that they are part of the hope in a company’s comeback will work even harder to bring that improvement to fruition.  Employees who are made to feel like the problem in a company’s economic downturn are apt to get what they can before they lose their job.  Productivity is last on their list of priorities.

When a company is on its way down the slide to destruction there are obvious signs along the way.  One is the attitude of the employees and the things they say about their company.  A great article about the worst cancers in a company was written by Louise Altman at the Intentional Workplace.   In her blog “Envy, Jealousy, Resentment:  The Comparison Emotions at Work,” Louise reminds us that unbalanced competition at work can create a negative atmosphere.

“It is easy to see why envy, jealousy and resentment are routinely triggered in most workplaces.  Position, power arrangements, lack of trust and transparency, miscommunication, time pressures and real or perceived scarcity of resources can pit people against colleagues and the “competition.”

In fact, unbalanced competitiveness can set the stage for envy, jealousy, resentment and greed. Because competition is the primary ethos that drives Western business, competing with others is an expected and even desirable function of the business model.”

But what if instead of individual competition in business, we can be motivated as a team.  This would only benefit the business in the long run and certainly would build a sense of unity and pride in the workers through their achievement.  I personally believe we are headed in that direction.

When I look at successful business models that are on the rise, I see those who are utilizing the latest networking technology efficiently, finding creative solutions for expanding their benefits for employees, allowing some creative freedom for and inviting ideas from employees and recognizing the constant fluctuations in consumer attitudes as the cream of the crop.  Those companies who stay mired in the old “us versus them” and a wider profit margin at all costs are the ones that will eventually die off, bringing a resounding truth to the capitalistic triumphant shout of survival of the fittest.